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On This Day. . . .

Today, we take a look back at four historic events that occurred on this day, September 14.


First, on this day in 1741, 277 years ago, George Frideric Handel finished work on his oratorio known as “Messiah.” He had worked on it for 23 days nonstop. The work, an extended summary of the life and ministry of Jesus, the Christ, or Messiah, was not popular at first, but over time its popularity grew until it became the best known choral works in Western history. The portion that is most widely recognized and performed, of course, is the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Handel ended his oratorio by signing it with the words Soli Deo gloria, a Latin phrase meaning “Glory to God alone.”


Second, on this day in 1814, 204 years ago, Francis Scott Key wrote the words of a poem that he titled “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” after observing the British bombardment from aboard a British warship, where he was visiting an American prisoner for whom he was seeking release. The words were later set to music and retitled “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The song became the U.S. national anthem upon passage of a resolution of Congress on March 3, 1931. Most people today know only the first of the song’s four verses (if they, indeed, even know that one!). The other three verses are about as familiar as the third verse of a four-verse hymn (that because in most churches the congregations sing only the first, second, and last verses).


Third, on this day in 1847, 171 years ago, U.S. Marines under the command of General Winfield Scott entered Mexico City during the Mexican-American War. The city became symbolically “the halls of Montezuma,” which were then immortalized in the Marine Hymn. The Marines have ever since been known as America’s elite forces, “the few, the proud, the brave.”


Finally, on this day in 1901, 117 years ago, President William McKinley was assassinated, and Vice

President Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as president, becoming the youngest man to serve as president. He maintained that distinction until John F. Kennedy became president in 1961.

Copyright (c) 2018, Dennis L. Peterson

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